Ashes and The Power of Touch

I’m proud to have an article in the February issue of St. Anthony Messenger entitled “Why We Love Our Ashes.”  With permission from St. Anthony Messenger, I am including a short excerpt of the article here. 

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The article explores why being marked with ashes is a custom that resonates so deeply with Catholics.  The excerpt below explores one of those reasons:

The power of touch.  Allowing another person to mark us with the sign of ashes is a very personal thing.  We are inviting someone else into our “personal space” and allowing him or her to mark us with a sign that makes us visibly vulnerable.  Just as when we have our feet washed or share in a sincere sign of peace, we are momentarily bonded with that person who draws near and touches us with sacred purpose. 

Although we are being marked with a sign of sin and death, the touch we receive is healing.  It is a human touch that represents the healing ministry of Christ and his Church.  Catholics are born into or later embrace this sacramental perspective.  We see and experience deeper realities in our physical world – bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, water becomes a transforming wash. 

In this decidedly Catholic way of looking at things, we don’t just get a smudge of ash from a stranger and go on with our lives.  No, we stand before one who is both a fellow sinner and a mediator between human and divine realities; we allow ourselves to receive the healing touch of one who is also marked with ash, who also needs a savior, whose way of marking us somehow communicates understanding, hope and the redemption we desire.  The human touch that marks us with ashes is an experience of both human and divine love.  Who wouldn’t show up for that?

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I pray you all have a meaningful Ash Wednesday and a holy Lenten season.  As always, I thank you for letting me be part of your spiritual journey!